Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Container and Bulk Shipping Under Threat as Hijackers Freed - Again

Pirates Release Tanker Whilst EU Releases Pirates
Shipping News Feature

SOMALIA – TANZANIA - In the tenth such incident this year last week saw EU forces disrupt a pirate gang on the high seas, yet again however by yesterday the gang had simply had a lift home rather than a few years in gaol, due to the lack of international agreement over ‘suspected’ hijackers. Readers may learn with incredulity that criminals who have stolen a vessel and directly threatened the container and bulk freight vessels that routinely transit the waters off the Tanzanian coast where the situation unfolded did not even receive a slap on the wrist for their actions let alone appropriate punishment.

This outcome of course in no way reflects on the crew of the Spanish warship, ESPS Infanta Elena, which intercepted a pirated fishing boat after identifying her at sunset on the 18th April. A boarding party was immediately despatched and the Spanish team rapidly identified six Sri Lankan crewmen and their seven captors. The vessel had been seized last November and the Sri Lankans needed medical care, food and water which was provided for them aboard the EU Atalanta Navfor warship.

The tired, but very relieved Sri Lankan fishermen were handed over to Tanzanian maritime forces close to Dar Es Salaam on 21st April and the European Union, via its delegation in Tanzania helped to ensure that the crew could quickly make contact with their families. Arrangements are now being made to fly the fishermen home to Sri Lanka.

This was the second incident to occur in Tanzanian waters on the same day as earlier on the 18th five suspected pirates were apprehended by Tanzanian maritime forces when their attack skiff, believed to have been operated from the Sri Lankan vessel, beached on the Tanzanian shoreline.

The next part of the story is likely to have senior members of the world’s shipping community once again incandescent with rage. As there is currently no agreement on the transfer of suspected pirates between the European Union and Tanzania, the 'alleged' pirates were yesterday released by the ESPS Infanta Elena onto the Somali coast.

EU Navfor tells us that there are currently ongoing negotiations with the Tanzanian authorities and it is hoped that a transfer agreement will be in place in the near future which will enable a degree of punishment for those found guilty after the appropriate legal moves. Having spoken with staff whilst visiting EU Headquarters we can testify nobody is more frustrated than they at their perceived impotence in these situations.

In other pirate news comes confirmation that the MT Enrico Ievoli, an oil tanker seized by an armed gang off the Omani coast whilst en route from Iran to Turkey two days after Christmas and reported here, has been released together with her eighteen strong crew. The Italian owners report the vessel is headed for home under the command of her Master and the speculation is that a ransom has been paid following failed negotiations earlier in the year.

Photo: Six grateful Sri Lankans line up behind their Spanish rescuers.